For the eighth straight year, English students experienced some of America’s best courtesy of Radnor High School.
Since 2005, RHS and the Friesland School: Specialist Performing Arts College (Nottingham, United Kingdom) have partnered for a twice-annual exchange: a fall trip from Friesland to RHS and a summer trip from Radnor to Friesland. Trevor Payne, an English teacher at RHS, began the program with help from Jennifer O’Rourke, a science teacher at RHS. Since its inception, RHS English teachers Terri Parkinson, Kelly Overcash, and Carl Rosin have been involved. RHS literacy coach Alexis Swinehart and English long-term-substitute teacher Nicole Cahill took over facilitating this year.
In the beginning of November, RHS students and families welcomed this year’s crop of 17 exchange students. Joining them were Peter Monk, Friesland’s headteacher (principal), and staff member Karen Tideswell. The students, although in college, are all around 17-years-old. Education in the UK is mandatory only until the age of 16, so these “Sixth Form” students had to apply to be accepted to the school.
“Around a hundred Radnor students have been core participants [in the program], with many others being involved peripherally,” Payne said in an email. “What I find especially pleasing is the significant numbers of return visits students have made on their own.”
(See pictures on RTSD.org)
The week started with the Friesland crew arriving in Philadelphia on Nov. 1 and riding into Radnor on a yellow school bus – a first for many of them. The night ended with introductions to their host Radnor family and a pizza party at the high school.
The next day, the students experienced the high-energy LM pep rally and the night's annual bonfire. On Saturday, they joined excited RHS students to cheer on the Raiders at the Lower Merion-Radnor game. It was the first time many of the exchange students had seen an American football game and they were impressed with the scope of the event. After Radnor won 35-7, they got caught up in the action and stormed the field with their new friends. They continued celebrating that night at the LM dance. What a day!
Sunday brought much-needed relaxation. The students rode bikes along the Schuylkill River, participated in some political canvassing, and shopped at the King of Prussia Mall. After the well-deserved half-day Monday, all the exchange students went to play Laser Tag (which they call “Laser Quest”) in the afternoon and ended the day with dinner at a local restaurant.
On their last full day, Election Day, the Friesland students got immersed in the American experience when parent volunteers took them into Philadelphia for a visit to Independence Hall and other historical landmarks. The students also enjoyed a tour of Reading Terminal Market and an American staple: the Philly cheesesteak. On Wednesday, the students participated in a regular school day at RHS and, that evening, said goodbye to the host families. The next day, after a last breakfast at RHS, the Friesland students departed for New York City for the next leg of their journey.